The state government is planning to include three core topics pertaining to child rights in school textbooks (state board) — disability and children with disability, sexuality and adoption — in order to increase students’ sensitivity towards these issues. Speaking to The Indian Express, Ananya Chakraborty, chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR), said, “Child rights and issues pertaining to children were already a part of textbooks. But we have asked for the inclusion of three core issues — disability, sexuality and adoption. We feel that children should learn about and become sensitive to these issues.” WBCPCR officials said they have met with the education department on at least three separate occasions and discussed the issue.
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Government officials explained that each of these topics is relevant in the state’s socio-economic and cultural context. For instance, adoption, in context with the CID recently unearthing an inter-state infant trafficking racket, which brought to the fore a sinister nexus between private nursing homes, doctors and local NGOs. This has prompted the state government to mull stricter and more transparent adoption laws in the state.
Earlier last year, the minister for women and child welfare had said that the state government will be issuing a notification following which couples wanting to adopt orphaned newborns and infants will have to go through police verification prior to the children being handed over to them. “We are formulating a plan through which we can increase vigil on specialised adoption agencies (SAA) which work in conjunction with the government,” said Chakraborty.
On disability, Chakraborty explained, “The idea is to ensure that children become sensitive to the issue of disability and to children with disability from a young age”. She further said, “Sexuality is another core issue where children need to get the right education. Upon hitting adolescence, children have different questions and are often very confused. In cases of alternate sexuality, this is even more convoluted. We have shared these concerns with the education department.”
The change in school textbooks will take place alongside a renewed focus on trafficking of children in West Bengal, which along with Bihar is one of the highest density source states for traffickers.
“Child trafficking will not be included in textbooks. There are already details about what to do in case of a lost child and information about Childline. The focus on trafficking will be through increased policing and also improved awareness instead,” said Chakraborty.